Congress Faces Long To-Do List Before Dec. 8

Congress is facing a long to-do list before Dec. 8, when the current government spending bill expires and the temporary debt limit suspension is lifted.  On the list are no shortage of critical items: tax reform, a third hurricane disaster relief bill, an annual defense policy bill, an increase to the nation’s debt limit and government spending for the remainder of fiscal 2018. 

Without an agreement on another continuing resolution or new funding for the government, the government would shut down after that deadline.

Spending Bills

None of the fiscal 2018 appropriations bills have been enacted and there is still no agreement on the so-called spending caps, or sequestration. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved eight of the 12 spending bills, but none have been considered by the full Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee may not consider the remaining bills given the limited window and ongoing discussions about an end-of-year omnibus spending deal.

Sequestration

Another item on lawmakers’ to-do list is whether to raise spending caps set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The law capped federal spending and mandated sequestration, a process under which federal agencies would see automatic, across-the-board budget cuts totaling $1.2 trillion between 2013 and 2021.

Congress passed a two-year deal to raise sequestration caps in 2015 that will expire without an extension. Current spending levels in both the House and Senate’s fiscal 2018 appropriations bills exceed limits under current law for fiscal 2018’s overall spending caps.  Without congressional action, across-the-board spending cuts would be triggered. 

Debt Ceiling

If Congress fails to increase or further suspend the debt limit by Dec. 8, Treasury can take extraordinary measures to continue funding the government though January, when the U.S. Treasury anticipates action will be necessary to raise the debt limit.

The debt ceiling addresses how the government pays for already-approved spending and is separate from the appropriations process.

Other Obstacles

The Office of Management and Budget has reportedly requested that Congress identify and provide offsets for disaster assistance.  Also looming large are disagreements over overall spending priorities, and sharp immigration and health care policy differences between the parties.

The Clock is Ticking

With the Dec. 8 deadline growing closer, NTEU continues to strongly oppose proposals to cut federal employee pay and benefits to fund unrelated programs. At the same time, NTEU is pressing for higher agency funding levels and a fair pay increase for federal employees next year. 

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